Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The New Socialism

Remember when the Soviet Union and in particular Communism that came under attack for not supporting individual rights and freedom? That if you didn't toe the ideological line, if you weren't a member of the party, you would be certain to be denied upward mobility in your society and facing a lot of political and legal problems if you weren't a recognized stalwart member. Your individual views whether it involved faith and politics would be suppressed because of the fact that they could never be tolerated. And if you expressed them openly, it got you a trip to infamous prisons and gulags. The moral outrage from this country then was that the Soviet Union wasn't a democracy like we happened to be. And opposing outward faith in God. Putting people in prison for expressing a faith in God, we could rightly say "Godless Communism." And even further a threat to world peace.

Cut to Robyn Blumner who is a columnist for the St. Petersburg Times. In her "Christian soldiers march over rights," she discusses:

Maybe the reason the misperception persists that there are no atheists in foxholes is that non-believers must either shut up about their views or be hounded out of the military. Just ask Army Specialist Jeremy Hall, who is making a splash in the news because of the way his atheism was attacked by his superiors and fellow soldiers while he was risking his life in service to his country.

Hall, 23, served two combat tours in Iraq, winning the Combat Action Badge. But he's now stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, having been returned to stateside early because the Army couldn't ensure his safety.

Now isn't that something? Presumably the U.S. Army goes to Iraq to "defend America" and the U.S. Constitution and many of its Christian members refuse to abide by the U.S. Constitution when it comes to the individual soldier who doesn't think like his peers do. Indeed as Blumner discusses in her editorial, ...Hall's atheism became an issue soon after it became known. On Thanksgiving 2006 while stationed outside of Tikrit, Hall politely declined to join in a Christian prayer before the holiday meal. The result was a dressing down by the staff sergeant who told him that as an atheist he needed to sit somewhere else.

--Reminds me of the Idaho state legislature where certain of its members, such as House Speaker Denney took issue with the press for not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance when they did. And the press could simply move out of the room until the 11th order was given if the capitol press corp didn't comply.

As found further in Blumner's column: In another episode, after Hall's gun turret took a bullet that almost found an opening, the first thing a superior wanted to know was whether Hall believed in Jesus now, not whether he was OK. In 2005, we had two different episodes in which anti-abortion groups massed together to demand a "right to life" for a blind and brain dead woman. And utter governmental failure when thousands of people died as a consequence of Hurricane Katrina. Many more thousands of people displaced and permanently from their home towns. Is ideology so complete that we are concerned less with a life than we are at scoring political points? The superior obviously didn't believe enough in Jesus to show that much hatred toward a fellow who could easily have died in combat. And that exposes a myth, doesn't it now, that military brethren will "look out for one another in the heat of combat?" Not if you are Specialist Jeremy Hall, apparently. ...Then in July, while still in Iraq, Hall organized a meeting of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers. According to Hall, after things began, Maj. Freddy Welborn disrupted the meeting with threats, saying he might bring charges against Hall for conduct detrimental to good order and discipline, and that Hall was disgracing the U.S. Constitution. (I think the major has that backward.) Welborn has denied the allegations, but the New York Times reports that another soldier at the meeting said that Hall's account was accurate.

The U.S. Constitution says nothing at all about rights allowed only to Christians and even further, applied only to a specific brand of Christianity. But then there is an excellent reason why that is so. His name is Benjamin Franklin, a fellow who helped to found a principle in Philadelphia that in this city in Pennsylvania at least, even an Islamic Imam could find a pulpit here to preach from. The founding principles of freedom of religion isn't solely the right of Christians. It is the right of any American here in this country, no matter what their religious or non-religious views. And it is certainly a constitutional right that Specialist Hall was called on to protect with his life if need be during a time of war. (Robyn Blumner's entire column can be found republished in the Spokesman-Review).

On the other hand, Tom Hayes of Spokane, Washington gets a letter published in the S-R Roundtable in which he calls the two Democratic contenders either socialist and pathological liars (Clinton), socialist and consorting with terrorists and racist pastors (Obama) or a "pseudo conservative" over illegal immigration and etc. (McCain) Who then bemoans: God, before it is too late, pleas provide moral, conservative, patriotic leaders who will preserve traditional Judeo/Christian values and our nation. Oh, you mean like the people Blumner was just discussing in her column? Blumner's editorial offered a complete rebuttal to Hayes concepts of "conservative," "moral," "patriotic," as to preferred leaders if they do not respect the founding laws of this nation. Certainly for fighting to protect such a document and refusing to respect it, as Blumner showed in her column; has nothing to do with "patriotism" if you treat the laws that patriotism was founded on with contempt. Or "moral" if as noted by Blumner and proven by Hayes, you show no love of neighbor, who certainly doesn't think as you do. And as a consequence, there can't be a preservation of "Judeo/Christian values" if you don't practice what you preach, as Hayes proved by the letter he submitted. Personally, I can take issue with Clinton, Obama and McCain, because every one of them have some unrealistic pie in the sky proposals. But I am not going to resort to that sort of name calling. That if they don't "think like me then they must be..." Last I checked, every one of those presidential contenders goes to church. Would Hayes feel more at home in a military that expresses the same sort of ideological intolerance? If someone is going to say "socialist" in this era, to Christians who don't think as he does, then all I can say is, look in the mirror.

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